Through Rose City Colored Glasses

Last week it became apparent that I am out of touch with the rest of the world. The distance between myself has never geographically changed, but the chasm between me and what some call real Americans, the heartland, the life’s blood of this country has never been larger.

With the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage, I realized I don’t spend enough time with conservatives; I forgot what their true colors are. Legalizing unions brought out some talk I didn’t think we allowed in this country anymore without politely accepting resignations to spend more time with family in lieu of firings or Jerry Mcguire-esque freak outs. I mean, why should Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee surprise me anymore?

I blame you, Portland. Sure, Oregon is more of a split state, but Portland is the liberal poster child we slap on bumper stickers and paint on postcards to hide the bigotry and tradition that hold sway outside the I-5 corridor between Autzen Stadium and the Rose Quarter.

With Portland as my cocoon, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart as my newsmen, Google preferences, RSS feeds, a steady diet of Farmers Markets and brunch, ironic barbershops and beard competitions, I kind of forgot that under the proud waving of confederate flags, pot, and even love were reviled in whatever is out there in the wastelands once ya get past The Dalles.

Legal weed (hell, free weed until we figure out how to sell it), legalized unions, words like artisanal and organic being as ubiquitous as hand-crafted and locally grown are our foundations. We thank the bus driver as we disembark, celebrate every single summer weekend as a city with blues festivals, musicfests, city fair, rose festival, craft beer festivals, food bazaars, and get probably 1/4 of our dietary need out of trucks. This city bikes through the streets naked and then runs through them to fight cancer. We gather food by the ton and collect toys by the truckload every year for our friends and neighbors we haven’t met yet. Oh, and we love our football club more than you love yours.

With all that, it is easy to both forget that some see equal love as the darkest times in this country’s history (Ted Cruz’s words). Our darkest time? In our history as a nation? Others call it the end of democracy. The end? This was the thing? Legal unions will topple a checks and balances government with free elections which is part of the G7, UN Security Council, and wields the world’s most advanced and well-used militaries? I kind of feel like gay people don’t have the kind of power it takes to unravel nearly 300 years as a free republic.

Others call for the end of SCOTUS. Even though they are written into the constitution, this is not the country our forefathers envisioned…that’s probably correct. I don’t think they’ve had this in mind since we stopped employing children, owning minorities, or let women…I don’t know, think, maybe? I’m pretty sure we turned their minds to jelly with manifest destiny or just inventing our way to jet lag. They were ignorant white men who lived before radio, so let’s cut them some slack, they were no Isaac Asimov so they probably didn’t see this (waves hand around the room at everything) coming.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t read the news. I keep up as much as the average guy, but my time isn’t spent railing against freedom. I don’t waste my breath spouting threats of setting myself on fire if gays get licenses. I don’t claim that this nation is now less free because states now need to recognize gay unions. I don’t spend my time slighting a group that wants nothing more than equal standing. I don’t have time for that, I live in Portland. I’ve got a hackerspace open house to attend. I’ve got to find the city’s best thai food, try all the beers in the WW summer rundown. Need to check off as many to-dos for the summer before the rains set in. There’s the bite and the beer festival coming up. Shoot, when is MFNW? Wait, did I miss WTF? Damn.

Portland keeps me busy, keeps me insulated from the hate, and has for better or worse, made me not a more tolerant person, but an indifferent person; it’s your life, and frankly I am too busy to spend my time trying to keep people marginalized. Gay marriage isn’t a thing here. Ted Cruz and the bigots were just the last to get the hashtag, just like racists were the last to get the message before them. History doesn’t smile kindly on those that were the last to know. Darkest hours don’t come in rainbow colors, folks, so let’s tone down the rhetoric. Now if you’ll excuse us, but Portland will go back to snickering about how ridiculous you all sound and get our tickets to the next awesome thing we do that everyone is equally invited to attend.

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AARP Discounts for the Poor: Another Half-cocked Concept

In our ongoing series of half-cocked ideas we’ve done everything from legalizing selling organs to changing how SNAP works at the local level. Spitballing and seeing what sticks results mostly in bad ideas and unfeasible contraptions you see in old timey videos on you tube right before they catch fire or go crashing to the ground (flight has so many of these perfunctory apparatuses). But you’ve got to start somewhere.

This time we’re looking once again at helping the poor, i.e. myself and my friends and family, somewhat in the same way we looked at raising the minimum wage to $15…what if we did absolutely anything else? So, adding to the idea is the following list of what I think the poor deserve: senior discounts.

It’s surprising the benefits that come from crossing the barrier sweet barrier from old to just about elderly. After fifty years old, the discounts just start piling up.

But why? What’s the premise on which to give the elderly discounts on daily items, services, goods? There are two options: Either they get the discounts because they’re old and they deserve it at their age, the honored age group; or it’s because they’re on a limited, fixed income and we need to incentivize them to spend their finite and waning wealth as much as we can before they die, the expiring consumer.

I know, morbid, but accurate. I think it is most often the latter of the two possibilities. Retirement means a lot of free time, but limited income. Why not throw discounts at a marginally small portion of the population to get what money we can from them. The larger swaths of society not receiving the discounts can cover the difference in volume. Hey, makes sense to me.

But can’t this same premise be applied to the poor? Fixed, limited income who can’t afford much, but let’s give ’em a break so maybe they’ll spend a little more and there’s a little financial relief. You don’t think a family of four would benefit from a 10% discount on groceries on the first Wednesday of every month at Albertson’s, 10% at Fred Meyer the first Tuesday and New Season’s every Wednesday? I think they might enjoy that. So, if an AARP cards gets you $8 off a haircut why can’t your EBT card do the same?

Best of all, it just takes a business making the choice. No votes, no petitions, no marches, no signs, nothing. Just a local business deciding that some of us need just as much help as grandpa from time to time.

The below list was compiled by Steve Harman on Facebook in 2013 and I found it on OnMogul.com

YOU must ASK for your discount !

RESTAURANTS:
Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
Arby’s: 10% off ( 55 +)
Ben & Jerry’s: 10% off (60+)
Bennigan’s: discount varies by location (60+)
Bob’s Big Boy: discount varies by location (60+)
Boston Market: 10% off (65+)
Burger King: 10% off (60+)
Chick-Fil-A: 10% off or free small drink or coffee ( 55+)
Chili’s: 10% off ( 55+)
CiCi’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
Denny’s: 10% off, 20% off for AARP members ( 55 +)
Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free coffee ( 55+)
Einstein’s Bagels: 10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
Fuddrucker’s: 10% off any senior platter ( 55+)
Gatti’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
Golden Corral: 10% off (60+)
Hardee’s: $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
IHOP: 10% off ( 55+)
Jack in the Box: up to 20% off ( 55+)
KFC: free small drink with any meal ( 55+)
Krispy Kreme: 10% off ( 50+)
Long John Silver’s: various discounts at locations ( 55+)
McDonald’s: discounts on coffee everyday ( 55+)
Mrs. Fields: 10% off at participating locations (60+)
Shoney’s: 10% off
Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+)
Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday ( 50+)
Subway: 10% off (60+)
Sweet Tomatoes: 10% off (62+)
Taco Bell : 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
TCBY: 10% off ( 55+)
Tea Room Cafe: 10% off ( 50+)
Village Inn: 10% off (60+)
Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60+)
Wendy’s: 10% off ( 55 +)
Whataburger: 10% off (62+)
White Castle: 10% off (62+) This is for me … if I ever see one again.

RETAIL & APPAREL :
Banana Republic: 30% off ( 50 +)
Bealls: 20% off first Tuesday of each month ( 50 +)
Belk’s: 15% off first Tuesday of every month ( 55 +)
Big Lots: 30% off
Bon-Ton Department Stores: 15% off on senior discount days ( 55 +)
C.J. Banks: 10% off every Wednesday (50+)
Clarks : 10% off (62+)
Dress Barn: 20% off ( 55+)
Goodwill: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Hallmark: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kmart: 40% off (Wednesdays only) ( 50+)
Kohl’s: 15% off (60+)Modell’s Sporting Goods: 30% off
Rite Aid: 10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions
Ross Stores: 10% off every Tuesday ( 55+)
The Salvation Army Thrift Stores: up to 50% off ( 55+)
Stein Mart: 20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month ( 55 +)

GROCERY :
Albertson’s: 10% off first Wednesday of each month ( 55 +)
American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday ( 50 +)
Compare Foods Supermarket: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
DeCicco Family Markets: 5% off every Wednesday (60+)
Food Lion: 60% off every Monday (60+)
Fry’s Supermarket: free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday ( 55 +)
Great Valu Food Store: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Gristedes Supermarket: 10% off every Tuesday (60+)
Harris Teeter: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
Hy-Vee: 5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
Kroger: 10% off (date varies by location)
Morton Williams Supermarket: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
The Plant Shed: 10% off every Tuesday ( 50 +)
Publix: 15% off every Wednesday ( 55 +)
Rogers Marketplace: 5% off every Thursday (60+)
Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace: 15% off (62+)

TRAVEL :
Airlines:
Alaska Airlines: 50% off (65+)
American Airlines: various discounts for 50% off non-peak periods (Tuesdays – Thursdays) (62+)and up (call before booking for discount)
Continental Airlines: no initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
Southwest Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
United Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
U.S. Airways: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
Rail:Amtrak: 15% off (62+)
Bus: Greyhound: 15% off (62+)
Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+

Car Rental:
Alamo Car Rental: up to 25% off for AARP members
Avis: up to 25% off for AARP members
Budget Rental Cars: 40% off; up to 50% off for AARP members ( 50+)
Dollar Rent-A-Car: 10% off ( 50+) Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 5% off for AARP members Hertz: up to 25% off for AARP members
National Rent-A-Car: up to 30% off for AARP members

Overnight Accommodations:
Holiday Inn: 20-40% off depending on location (62+)
Best Western: 40% off (55+)
Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Waldorf Astoria – NYC $5,000 off nightly rate for Presidential Suite (55 +)
Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
Econo Lodge: 40% off (60+)
Hampton Inns & Suites: 40% off when booked 72 hours in advance
Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
InterContinental Hotels Group: various discounts at all hotels (65+)
Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
Marriott Hotels: 25% off (62+)
Motel 6: Stay Free Sunday nights (60+)
Myrtle Beach Resort: 30% off ( 55 +)
Quality Inn: 40%-50% off (60+)
Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
Sleep Inn: 40% off (60+)

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT ;:
AMC Theaters: up to 30% off ( 55 +)
Bally Total Fitness: $100 off memberships (62+)
Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $13 off one-day tickets ( 50 +)
Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
Cinemark/Century Theaters: up to 35% off
Massage Envy – NYC 20% off all “Happy Endings” (62 +)
U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
Regal Cinemas: 50% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket ( 55 +)
SeaWorld, Orlando , FL : $3 off one-day tickets ( 50 +)

CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS :
AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $19.99/month (65+)
Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service ( 50 +)
Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+).

MISCELLANEOUS:
Great Clips: $8 off hair cuts (60+)
Supercuts: $8 off haircuts (60+)

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SNAP: Rethinking the food stamp program locally

Originally published in the #5 Poppycock:

With this issue’s half-cocked concept, we turn our eyes to SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps, costs the American taxpayer some $80 billion annually. We take a look at how Portland and Oregon to a greater extent could rethink how this financial relief is allocated, and how our local economy might benefit.

Renamed SNAP in 2010, the Food Stamps program remains the same as it has, mostly, for decades. It is the vast majority of funding allocated by the Farm Bill, it is a point of great contention for politicos, and it is constantly under threat of reduction despite a need by many as not just supplemental income, but a cornerstone for many families.

When we get right down to it, it’s a handout from the government. Tax money used to support families same as unemployment, WIC, and welfare. SNAP is financial relief for one of life’s constant, increasing expenditures, but it’s just money. I mean, if money is money and relief is relief, could we just rethink how we use that money?

In October of this year, Oregon released benefits exceeding $98 million. That’s approximately $225 per household or $126 per person receiving benefits. SNAP is basically a gift certificate, it’s handicapped money. It’s money that can’t do everything that real money can do. You can buy candy, but not vitamins. You can buy fresh lobster, but not diapers. You can buy cake, but not medicine. With junk food allowed but soap and toothpaste not, we did away with the “supplemental nutrition” premise and examined the issue without it as a limitation in our systems. If you can do your grocery shopping at a CVS and a Chevron, but can’t buy medication or gasoline, then I think we can all agree that nutrition is taking a back seat.

We also saw an issue with limiting a buyer’s rights. If this isn’t about nutrition, then it needs to be about straightforward financial relief. If the household is receiving $225 in relief, why shouldn’t they decide what that relief is spent on? Essentially, we need to think of a better way Oregonians can spend and profit from their benefits while getting the relief they need. The ideas we came up with had to meet three criteria: scaleable, local, and sustainable.

Data isn’t readily available on the buyer’s habits, nor is it easily released as to which stores and companies are receiving a majority of the buyer’s attention.

One such piece of information was released in Oklahoma a few years ago. In 2012, Walmart received approx. 50% of the $1 billion dollars in benefits paid out that year.

Reports show that buying local keeps more dollars in the community: 48 cents on the dollar stay local compared to the 14 cents when buying from a national chain. This 34 cent difference sounds like the kind of margin that could change a community.

So, how do we make those dollars stay local, improve and enrich our communities while delivering the relief families and individuals need, without losing money?

The Hybrid

We deliver 70-80% or current SNAP benefits as is, and then we add a local discount system. Find 50, 100, maybe 500 locally owned and operated stores and companies that will honor a partially subsidized discount on goods and services. This is where the buying power of the consumer is found. There is more to life than just food, and sometimes needs change month to month. The flexibility of a local discount card allows the individual and the household to decide what they need this month. A family gets the relief they need in food and then has some flexibility in other areas of their lives. Also, it introduces a group of local business owner to a wealth of new consumers with incentive to shop with them.

Discount Card

Tweaking that somewhat, what if we took all limits off of SNAP benefits, and created a capped discount card? 50% off public transit, 40% off grocery food items, 30% off local clothing retailers, 20% off household items at local stores, 10% of car maintenance and select other local services (everything from remodeling, cleaning, improving homes and maybe even services like insurance with local companies and discounted warranties to ensure things last families longer). Same financial benefits, capped at a set amount per household per month, but the added bonuses of buying empowerment and 100% local spending. An economy keeping 48 cents on every dollar is one growing while everyone gets the help they need from the money we already allocate.

Local Store Credit

What if we actually increased benefits, but the local economy footed the difference? If the difference between chain and local in revenue circulation is 34 cents, than why not offer a discount for shopping local that is less than the gap? You see it all the time with secondhand stores. You could get $50 cash for your goods you’re selling, or get $65 in-store credit. Apply this to food stamps, and we’ve got a growing economy. You can have your benefits as a family, but what you spend locally only costs you 85 cents on the dollar compared to chain stores. Your family gets $225 a month in benefits if you want to shop at 7-11 and Walmart. Choose People’s Co-op and CHOP Butchery? That’s $258.25 in benefits.

Any of these ideas could include monthly deals and coupon books for those receiving benefits. Additional savings if recipients shop with this store or that one, locally owned. Maybe there is a credit with every household that is worth a home gardening kit designed to get a home growing part of their diet; the “teach a man to fish,” theory.

The two things standing in the way of this are obviously the buying power of this money (strictly allocated to certain goods as it is), and the lobbyists against it. Companies who partner with the US government as well as lobby for the current system have a lot to lose if restrictions change. I don’t need to point out Walmart’s stake in the SNAP market, but what about 7-11’s stake.

7-11 and the convenience store lobby has spent a lot of money to make their point that SNAP benefits should be able to be used in their locations. There’s $80 billion a year at stake here. Not to mention the stake of WIC partnership companies; maybe a bit more than a little to lose in the US grain production business.

Whether we do away with the food stamps all together and adopt a capped discount system, or if we offer subsidies to a select list of local businesses in order to encourage competition, or if we offer the scaled value system leaning toward local purchasing, we need to refuse to accept that this is the best we can do and be constantly refining the system with pilot programs and test groups. We also need to be tracking buying habits to see if the system is even doing what it was intended for. Are we throwing money away on junk food and fresh lobster, or are families actually spending the money on nutritional food stuffs? I think we might be shocked if we ever got to see those numbers as a nation.

In just one month, if we spent locally the $98 million in SNAP benefits, that would be a gross total of $47 million of revenue in our state each month that will stay local. If every dollar was spent in a chain? Just $13 million. It’s no more or less help than families were receiving before, no more expense to the taxpayer, but an increase in the wealth in our communities and does with government handouts what we need to see more of, making every dollar do more than it did before. Shopping local and empowering even the poorest of our community is that little difference that could make all the difference in Oregon if we can break our habits and makes a few changes in a system that isn’t going away any time soon and arguably went off the rails when we approved lobster but not vitamin supplements.

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Keep Calm and Let’s Talk Guns

Let’s talk about gun control. Whoa, whoa, whoa. Everyone calm down. Jesus. Lower your weapons. Put the guns down. Put ‘em down. I just wanna talk. Why do you have an erection? C’mon, man that’s weird. Everybody just relax. This is a conversation. Yosemite Sam, put away your magic six-shooters I’ve never seen you reload. OK, are we good now? Roll up that “Don’t Tread on Me” flag. Alright, let’s just talk with our words.

Gun control is the topic of the day, and I think we can safely call it a point of contention in this country. Let’s face it, not only do we love our right to bear arms, we just plain ol’ love guns. We love them in movies, video games, and the idea of scantily clad women firing them. I’m just gonna put it out there that no one is going to come for your guns. You can rest easy that your government isn’t going to march jack-booted down Main Street kicking in doors and collecting your guns to be melted down to make handcuffs. Frankly, for a guy who owns a lot of guns you’re a little paranoid.

It is a constitutional right for you to bear arms as a free citizen in this country. Among other rights like free speech, which I exercise until I tear a first amendment ACL, there is no touching it. We cherish them and will defend them to our death, and we have needed guns to do so. Not arguing with that point here. I would kill for my free speech, the right I value more than any other, so I can see your willingness to defend your favorite amendment.

Unfortunately, my lifetime has seen many a massacre and people are looking for answers. The violence and loss of life in movie theaters and schools recently has highlighted the need for an open discussion and a meeting of mind, cooler heads, to try to stop the violence. Some have tried to point the finger at music in the past, some at video games, and others at our terrible mental health system as causes of the violence. Since guns don’t kill people, what is making people kill? I appreciate the search for answers, but music and video games aren’t the cause. Furthermore, if we are talking about our constitutional rights, the Supreme Court has ruled that music, literature, and now video games are covered and protected by the first amendment. Turn around is fair play, gun owners.

If we can’t do anything about media influencing violent behavior, then we need to be open to the idea that maybe the second amendment needs some new interpreting. Here is my position on the pro-gun, don’t touch my rights crowd: If you’re not even willing to hear ideas about limiting gun ownership, tighter registration regulations, outlawing assault rifle purchases, or limiting how much ammunition one person can possess, then what you are saying is that the current violence and loss of life at the business end of firearms is an acceptable consequence of freedom. I humbly disagree with your opinion.

If you want no additional regulation, no limitations, and maybe even want more guns in more people’s hands, then what you also support is that from time to time someone is going to shoot up a school, a theater, or attempt to assassinate a congresswoman in front of a Safeway. That these events are the acceptable collateral damage of living in a free society.

As I said, I love my freedom of speech. I turn back to Uncle Ben in these intractable situations when he told Peter Parker that with great power comes great responsibility. With the power to express myself freely comes the responsibility of such a power. I also must tolerate that other people do not take this right as seriously as I do. I must suffer bigots, homophobes, racists, and fools who have the same right to express themselves publicly as I do. Would I love to shut them up and stop their hate speech? Sure, and I might even fantasize about doing it by exercising my second amendment all over their faces, but I don’t because I realize that sometimes people will abuse their rights. However, when some abuse the first amendment, it’s sticks and stones. Abusing the second amendment abuse ends in the ER, not the opinions section of the LA Times.

The real bitch about gun control is that there is no right answer. This is not an algebra equation. There is no answer for X. This topic is a matter of opinion and of philosophy. This discussion goes deep in to a place that lights raging infernos inside people. This is a question of what kind of society we want to live in? What kind of message do we send to the world? It’s no different from the question of abortion rights or legalizing pot or gay marriage. There is no right answer. We must decide what we individually believe in and decide what kind of nation we want to make for ourselves.

Those of you armed to the teeth who go out and shoot off guns for kicks, who hide behind the second amendment with a collection of 20 guns as a method of “personal defense,” (who are you defending your home against? Nicaraguan death squads?) aren’t going to be swayed. I also fear that this type of thrill seeking paranoid deviant is in the minority. I am assuming there are more people in this country with just a shotgun and a pistol in a lock box in a closet to truly just defend their home. I am assuming there are more non-gun owners in this country than those that are absurdly strapped. I also like to think that many people see these recent tragedies, are reminded of violence in the past, and want to stop jerking off on the second amendment and realize that we have a right to bear arms, but maybe we have a responsibility to think long and hard about what that means.

The forefathers wrote the Bill of Rights at a time when foreign powers could land on our shores and take over a city. They wrote it at a time when government was in its infancy and the chance for corruption and totalitarian dictatorship was easier then than it is now. That’s why you could have guns. To kill invaders and defend your sheep from wolves. Times have changed and with it we must change our view that we’re not allowed to say that the forefathers didn’t have this world in mind when they wrote the basis of our modern society. Hell, they might have even been flat-out wrong.

Guns aren’t going anywhere. The second amendment is safe. No one is going to try to pry your gun from your cold dead hands, so just relax. I do think it’s time though to consider state level amendments and laws. There must be something we can do to affect change in the culture and the sale of guns. You can try to defer the real problem to other issues like violent video games, but guns are still things designed to kill. Quote me stats on cars killing more people each year than guns. Tell me stories about the time a man saved his family from an intruder because he had a gun. Entertain me with your memes quoting Hitler and your 140 character tweets from Nugent and Heston. Unfurl your flags and post cartoons about assault rifles. Go ahead and treat this serious issue with the same respect you treat Twilight movies and hilarious YouTube videos; yeah, that’s how adult conversations go. That’s your first amendment right and I can tolerate it. We are going to talk about this though, whether you’re in the conversation or not. I hope we have finally decided as a nation, with the slaughtering of children, that it’s time we took a little responsibility over our rights. The collateral damage of this inalienable freedom is getting out of hand.

I would love to hear your opinions and talking points on this subject. This article is not one based in facts and figures. Just as with this issue, I am looking at this philosophically. This is where I believe you start with an issue like this. You need to first decide where you stand, why, and need to think long and hard about whether giving up a little can make a huge difference. I am not a gun owner. I’m not a fan of guns, frankly, but I respect and can understand the right and desire to own them. Please comment and let me know your opinion on this subject and any ideas you might have for further gun control on a federal or state level. Opinions by definition aren’t wrong, so there is nothing you can say that is wrong, now am I wrong in my position. We just need to talk. No, don’t post links to memes, NRA speeches, or something else. I want to hear from you and what you think, not some regurgitated opinion from someone else. This is the type of thing where you really need to think for yourself. Hope to hear from you, and please keep the profanity to a minimum.

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Newtown: A Call For a New World

I’ve been sitting on this one for a while. There is no unbiased position to take in the aftermath of a tragedy that redefines the word. This is one of those moments where adjectives fall short of sentiment; where rage mixes with shock and awe for a cocktail of appreciating what you still have and deep down inside you stirs the selfish thoughts that at least it didn’t happen to you. I’m not going to pretend that I feel or understand the scope of the impact of what happened last week. I can’t. I am not a father and I am just far enough away to look at the devastation as an abstract exercise in empathy. I fall short in every way to either understand this or to truly feel it. I am incapable, I suppose, but I think we all are if we’re honest with ourselves.

In the aftermath of such an event we take stock of our lives. I am sure parents are kissing and hugging their children harder than they ever have before. I am sure embraces are warmer, and love dives deeper than we ever thought it could; we never thought we could hold our breath down here.

There is the searching we all do. In events of this magnitude, seismic emotional quakes that have reached the other side of the world like the destructive flapping of the butterfly’s wings. We are all searching for three things as the dust settles and is rearranged. We ask why, how, and what can we do to never feel this way again?

Why? It’s our first question. Why would someone do this? It’s like asking a wall why it stands or why it crumbles. There is no good answer. I hate to be the one to state the obvious, but there is nothing that can be given you that will suffice. Motive may sway a jury in a trial, but there is no motive that can satisfy me. You can’t ask Gacy, Manson, or the Menedez boys and get a logical or reasonable excuse for their actions. There is no advocacy for the devil here. Nothing will fit the crime. We could be told the voices told him to do it, that it was domestic, that it was terrorism, that it was anger management issues, PTSD, or that he just hated life. I could rail off a million reasons for why, and they will never suffice. What’s done is done and there is nothing that can make it understandable.

How is where the lines in the sand come from. Guns. He killed with guns. He just walked in to the school and slaughtered our conditioned reality in a few moments of utter madness. How leads to the shock and we all love our little boxes for things. Just like why, we want to compartmentalize so we can fit this new thing in with the old things. This kind of violence, madness belongs in this box or that one. We want details. What kinds of guns? Where was the school? What time was it? How did he just walk in to the school? How could he do this? How leads to key points that ring out as the new thing to champion. It wakes us up to issues we had forgotten about since the last violence or the last event. We forget about bigotry and homophobia until someone gets tied to a fence and beaten to death. We forget about things we cherish until they are endangered. It’s just the way we are as a species. Until it is threatened, the illusion of safety lulls us in to complacency. Consider us all shocked to alertness.

Now we want to prevent it. We never thought it possible, can’t wrap our minds around the tragedy, but now that it’s happened we never want to feel this way again. Let’s stop it. What can we do? Is it gun control? Is it school security? Is it arming teachers? Is it monitoring students and classrooms more closely? Is it a little of everything? What do we do to stop this from ever happening again?

I’ve seen your memes, your tweets, and your status updates. I’ve seen your personal protests and your open prayers. I know this: There is no answer. Gun control will never eliminate guns and especially violence. We could melt down every gun on the planet and it wouldn’t stop the flow of guns if there’s a market. Let’s say we end gun ownership, then people will just sharpen sticks and take archery classes. Violence occurs with bare hands, guns are just more efficient, and in this country they aren’t going anywhere.

We can’t arm teachers. That’s all we need: a gun in a classroom at all times. That just isn’t going to end well. Do we want to turn schools in to police states patrolled by officers with guns? Metal detectors at every door, CCTV in every classroom, defense training for all staff, lockdown drills weekly, and no bathroom breaks. Campuses lined by electric doors and barbed wire? I don’t know. Seems extreme to me.

This is a tragedy I wish I’ll never be alive to see again. I don’t pretend to know what the answer is. I don’t have one, which is the only thing I am certain of. I know that one of my initial thoughts after hearing the news was, “I don’t want to live in this world anymore.” I’m not saying suicide was the answer. I’m too stubborn to give up on life, but I know that this world–a world where this happens–is not one I want to be a part of. I don’t know how to get there, to a place where this is something of an era we call the time before we did something better for the human race. We can do better than this. I don’t know what will get us there, but I hope this shock to reality, analysis, and self-searching will turn out something that can be viewed as a step forward. I don’t know, but I just can’t keep doing this. I am ashamed of what we have built. It’s broken, and we need to figure out how to fix it. Maybe there is no one answer because this wasn’t a question that happened, I was just a damned tragedy.

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Your Votes Were Counted, Added Up to More of The Same

It’s over! Everyone take just a moment out of your day and thank God for the end of this long, grueling, and exhausting election year. Now remember, we have to do it all again in two years with midterms. Sigh.

I watched the hell out of this day and in reflection I realize that with everything that happened, nothing changed. I know, pessimism and cynicism are the easy way out, but old habits, ya know?

Our greatest right is the chance to choose. As we can see from the numbers, the popular vote needed every one of your votes. The last thing we needed was a repeat of 2000, so we can only rejoice in that. Florida’s stubbornness not withstanding, things went exactly as planned. Battleground states went to Obama for the most part, and Florida is just taking it’s time going that way. Had we ended up with a discrepancy between the electoral vote and popular, there would have been bloodshed and Congress would have eventually taken a hard look at going back to popular vote. It would make for a more exciting watch for me at least. We could treat election coverage like a PBS telethon. “Let’s go to the big board!”

With all the coverage, the talk, speculation, and early forecasting this was nothing to write home about. Everything followed the script. Sure, the voting public could have ad libbed a one man show with an empty chair, but instead they read the prepared speech. Monday? Split House and Senate with a democratic president. Wednesday? Split House and Senate with a democratic president. So what’s with all the cheering and fuss?

Each party had a chance to make a play for taking seats and the White House away from the other side, and nothing changed. We can rejoice, we can commiserate over a perceived loss, but it doesn’t matter. Guess what? This country voted its ass off, and all you got was exactly what you had yesterday.

According to polls, 53% of Americans feel that government is doing too much in their daily life. By the same token, polls indicate that at one point between 70-85% of the country disapproved of the job congress was doing. Yet, after all of the waiting in lines, all the hundreds of millions of dollars spent, we worked so hard to achieve the same as we’ve had before. What the hell do we really want?

This goes to show that this country is batshit crazy. This is the definition of insanity. We hate the way our team is performing and we didn’t change the roster. We were disgusted with the choices being made on the hill, and we removed few decision makers. We are tired of how things are going, and we are sticking with the same government. Same people, same result.

You heard the thinly veiled disgust in Romney’s voice. You heard Boehner practically roll his sleeves up and challenge Obama and democrats to a Queensberry Rules boxing match. We can also assume Nancy Pelosi is out as Minority Leader. Obama was inspiring in his speech, which is the same way I feel when he talks most of the time. We get it, you’re eloquent and your speechwriters are good.

What did we learn? I see the first openly gay woman elected to office. Gay rights are officially a non-issue (way to go Maine and others). It will stay on the ballot until it’s passed. We’re gonna make homophobes look stupid soon enough. Same thing with weed. It’s gonna be legal. It’s just a matter of time. I can only hope we wisely figure out a way to tax its sale for the good of our deficit. I also learned that democrats don’t seem to see the irony in chanting four more years! which was a publicity stunt during the Republican National Convention during Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Women voters were this year’s Latinos. Latinos were also this year’s Latinos. Romney’s “all white” campaign failed him. If you didn’t know, white people are officially reproducing at a lower rate than minorities (story here). I guess republicans are going to have to rethink their strategies in campaigning and their positions on key minority issues. You know, pander a little. I also learned that if this year’s Obama had to run against himself from 2008, he would have lost the popular vote to himself. I guess that’s what years of contentious governing will do.

With all the confetti, the speeches, the atrociously long voting lines (story here), and the stickers and buttons of proud voters, we only maintained the status quo. We did all of that, and all we did was not make a different choice. You can take that as you will, whether it be a feather in your cap, or a night you loathe having to live with for years to come, that’s your choice. We all reap the bounty and burden of this year’s harvest.

We have a closely, viciously divided country. Despite that hope Obama mentioned that nags inside you despite the obvious, we have a legislative government ready to dig in and do anything to prove a point. Budgets and debt ceiling votes will be pushed to the eleventh hour. A path to citizenship will be a veritable Rio Grande to ford. Education funding will be held hostage for growing the military budget. Pages will be dog-eared, there will be pork barrel spending, and everyone will have a hand out waiting for grease to even cast a vote let alone concede a position. If you thought it was bad before, this election has only shown us with glaringly honest numbers where we stand. We are divided as ever, and our government will do its best to do little for us. Some will call this a political civil war, but it’s just a Mexican standoff. Either way, we should all be nervous and maybe ask what went wrong (whether your horse won or not).

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Two Dead, Wolf Blitzer to Blame

 

 

Reports say two college seniors have been pronounced dead of alcohol poisoning after an election day drinking game spun out of control.

Two Fi Beta Cappa fraternity brothers were playing a drinking game while watching election results in the fraternity house Tuesday evening. The names of the two seniors have not been revealed, but witnesses report that the two students had committed themselves to taking a drink every time they heard Wolf Blitzer say a predetermined list of words.

The two seniors were political science majors and were set to graduate in the spring. It is unclear yet how much they had to drink, but one witness is quoted as saying, “They were going at it like crazy. They had about 20 words up there on the board and had like five cases of beer and a couple of bottles of tequila. They had to do shots when anyone said the phrase ‘too close to call.’ It was [expletive] insane.”

This is not the first time that an incident like this has occurred. During election night in 2008, three students were hospitalized with alcohol poisoning after deciding to drink as long as a news correspondent was standing in the middle of a 3D rendering of statistical information. All three students recovered in that case.

Reached for comment, the president of the college remarked that, “If this is what young people consider ‘getting involved in politics’ is supposed to be, then we’re all doomed.”

No word yet if the school will investigate the safety of the fraternity in question, but one freshman rushing the fraternity who asked his identity be withheld said, “I didn’t think this is what I was getting myself into. I might not even want to be in this house. [Expletive], I’m an independent for God’s sake.”

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